Let corn plants see the light!
Even at the seedling stage, corn plants know what competition they’ll have from their neighbors, whether they’re weeds or other corn plants. It’s dubbed the “don’t fence me in” mantra for corn plants. Each plant needs adequate room to produce a factory capable of capturing light efficiently.
Shade created by vegetation canopy is characterized by a reduced rate of red light to far-red light. In full sun, plants “see” relatively equal amounts of red and far-red light.
However, red light is absorbed by vegetation, while far-red light is reflected. If plants are bombarded with reflected far-red light, they know they’re surrounded, and they take action to avoid shading, such as producing fewer branches, growing taller and flowering earlier.
With too few neighbors, corn plants produce multiple ears, add extra rows to ears and perhaps produce a couple of extra rows of kernels per ear, or grow longer. That explains why plants along fence rows typically have big ears. The same thing happens from big gaps within rows. It’s all about competition for sunlight and nutrients.
• An internal mechanism lets young plants sense competition.
• If plants are crowded — or if they’re lonely — they make adjustments.
• Treat plants like your employees to get their best performance.
How do you make sure you’re providing equal opportunity to each corn plant? Unless you have irrigation, you have no control over sunshine, temperature or water availability.
At planting time you’re often rushing to beat weather fronts. So you may forget about accuracy, but lack of accuracy can hurt yields.
Think of corn plants as your employees. If you give them equal opportunities and treat them well, they’ll reward you with high yields.
Search for perfect spacing
It’s rare to find a field with perfect spacing in every row. Several fields on one farm featured near-perfect plant placement last year. Duane Hensley, crops manager for Jim Douglas, Shelbyville, planted those fields.
Hensley pays attention to detail in planter preparation. Read the article below, “How to get near-perfect stands,” for tips from Hensley.
Nanda writes from Indianapolis. Reach him at [email protected]
This article published in the March, 2010 edition of INDIANA PRAIRIE FARMER.